Posted by Olive Heffernan
While I usually find the FT an excellent source of comment and discussion on climate change, I was somewhat bemused by last week’s Comment from the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, who writes that “global warming hysteria has become a prime example of the truth versus propaganda problem” and urges society to “resist the politicisation of science and oppose the term ‘scientific consensus’, which is always achieved only by a loud minority, never by a silent majority”.
Though clearly no climate expert, Klaus feels sufficiently component to write on the topic of global warming “as someone who lived under communism for most of his life”. He says “I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism”.
From a man who regards Michael Crichton and Richard Lindzen as voices of reason come denunciations of “Al Gore’s so-called documentary film”, “Britain’s – more or less Tony Blair’s – Stern report” and the IPCC’s and G8 Summit’s “ambitions to do something about the weather”. (For a direct response to both Crichton’s and Lindzen’s climate denialist arguments, listen to the recent debate with climate scientists Gavin Schmidt and Richard Somerville, among others).
Klaus fails to even attempt to challenge any specifics of the scientific literature on climate change, but instead writes climate science off as ‘propoganda’, making his Comment absurd.
“One exceptionally warm winter is enough…for the environmentalists and their followers to suggest radical measures to do something about the weather”, he writes. Actually, the latest IPCC report on the physical science basis of climate change, which represents the work of thousands of researchers, compiled by hundreds of climate experts, found that “eleven of the last twelve years rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature”.
He then goes on to claim it is “proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment”. But with higher per-capita income, the demand for ecosystem services grows. This places more pressure on the environment, often with detrimental effects. For more on this, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment provides a comprehensive discussion of the relationship between wealth and the environment.
As Felix Salmon points out on the Market Movers blog, much of Klaus’ Comment is rather woolly in meaning, with statements such as ‘small climate changes do not demand far-reaching restrictive measures’ being so general as to be meaningless.
The FT invites readers to challenge Klaus by posting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org before this Thursday, June 21, when answers to a select few will appear online from 1pm BST – although the Q&A session is situated in the somewhat misleading category ‘ask the expert’! Personally, I find it disappointing that they are only allowing questions rather than comments, and select ones at that.